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Last week, my misidentification of a laser engraving on a space part suggested the wrong personality core from Portal 2 was symbolically being flown to space (a fate echoing the game's story.) A team of 18 teenagers from Nevada stepped in to restore order, and properly send the Space Core—or, well, a plushy version of him, anyway—to near space.
That image above is of Space Core (and an Energizer Bunny) at about 91,000 feet, which were launched yesterday by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas' Summer Advanced Gifted Education Academy—aka smart kids. One, named Jake, enrolled in a class called "Project: Space!" whose goal was to send up two weather balloons. "In the first week, I found out that the majority of the class were huge Portal and Portal 2 fans when we sung both 'Still Alive' and 'Want You Gone' from memory," Jake writes.
After seeing the story last week, Jake proposed the idea of launching a Space Core into space, which was immediately supported. He wrote Valve, which quickly sent back its thanks and encouragement and the Space Core plushy. (The Energizer Bunny was the group's hat-tip to the battery maker, which supplied the power source.)
"After much preparation and anxiety, we sent up the weather balloon [Saturday] morning and retrieved it in the afternoon," Jake wrote. "The balloon ended up going up about 91,000 feet (we could have done better, but the wind decided to make our lives harder)."
The photo above is blurry because the balloon's camera lens still was fogged by a cloud it had passed through. The image is of the balloon just before it burst.
"Lots of things have been sent into space before, but I think this is the first time a space core was sent up," he noted in conclusion. Indeed.
The project team, Flying Apple Space Technologies (so named because Newton's fell to Earth, theirs is going in the opposite direction) is working on uploading a full video of the Space Core's flight. They also have another launch coming up and are keen to find supporters so that they can send up more scientific instruments. Previous launches by the SAGE Academy have included Geiger counters, weather loggers and a flight predictor.
You're about to see what happens when a team of "speed-runners" knows enough about the progress and timing of a game that they can finish something that normally takes hours in just over eight minutes.
The run, with video slightly edited for your viewing pleasure, is above, while this online document is full of notes detailing how they actually did it.
For the doubters, there's this:
There were no cheats, hacks, or modifications made to the game while the speedrunning took place. Everything you see in this video can be done on a current Steam version of Portal without using any console commands. Any part where the video "stutters" or when a "console box pops up" signifies a segment. The console box is a demo artifact, and we couldn't fix it from popping up.
And if that's not enough, there's a link to download a demo of the run in full below.
Portal Done Pro-er - Portal Speedrun - 8:31.93 - WR [YouTube, via Beefjack]
Gaming Heads, the creators of fine Team Fortress 2 statuary, opens the valve on its new Portal 2 line with this gorgeous 16-inch turret replica, ready to fill speaking and non-speaking roles in your home security regime, depending on how much you're willing to invest.
Can you really put a price tag on quality replica home security? Well yes, you can, and that price tag is $300. That money can secure you one of 750 Portal 2 turrets upon their Q4 2012 release, packed lovingly in foam with a certificate that ensures that this is a high quality product and not something you made in shop class.
Just look at this thing. Are you not pleased to the tune of $300?
Perhaps you need to see a more detailed view. Did I mention the motion sensor activated light?
Still not convinced? What's wrong with you? You act as if you don't have $300 to toss about frivolously on video game paraphernalia.
I can understand that, so I won't even tell you about the Gaming Heads exclusive edition, which adds voices from the game to the statue for a mere $30 extra. It's limited to 350 pieces; you probably couldn't have secured one in time anyway.
Portal 2 Turret Preorder [Gaming Heads]
Portal 2 Turret Exclusive w/ Sound Preorder [Gaming Heads]
If you've played games like Team Fortress 2 or the Portal titles, you know that Valve loves making players learn. The company's already got a foothold in bringing their games into the educational space and that commitment's going to get bigger.
Today, at the Games for Change conference, Valve's Leslie Redd and Yasser Malaika announced that they'll be giving away their hit game Portal 2 for free, via the new Steam for Schools initiative. After signing up for a beta, educators will be able to get the popular sequel, the recently launched Perpetual Testing Initiative level maker and sample levels. Students making levels won't be able to share levels outside of a physical classroom, though. For more info, head over to learnwithportals.com
Mean, witty, and slightly crazy, GLaDOS is one of the most memorable gaming characters in recent memory—no wonder she's a fan fav. And no wonder all these folks decided to dress up as her!
Here's a look a handful of cosplayers tackling the same character. It's like when people show up to a party, dressed in the same outfit. Have a look in the above gallery and see who pulled off the best GLaDOS.
Gravity is a pernicious reminder of our physical limits. It's the thing that keeps us rooted to the ground, it pulls our bodies downwards, makes us slow, ages us. The dream of flight, then, is a rejection of that limitation—see me? I can fly, man. I'm free, I can do anything!
And yet, I've found that when playing games, it's not the flying that I find most exciting. It's the moment that comes after—when I re-engage with gravity and come tumbling back towards earth. Flying in video games is great, but I love to fall.
Gravity Rush, a splendid new adventure game for the PlayStation Vita, opens with a scene depicting an apple, tumbling to the ground. Sir Isaac Newton may be nowhere to be seen, but the scene's intent is clear: This is a game about falling, pure and simple. And man oh man, does this game do falling well.
The game's central, brilliant idea is to give the player the ability to change which way is "down," and so which way the protagonist Kat will fall. Another way to think about this is that the player is able to change the axis of the world on a whim. Video games have granted a lot of cool powers over the years, but this is among the coolest.
It's an extraordinary thing, this game's sense of freedom, of kinetic motion. With a double-tap of the right shoulder button, Kat launches into the air, wind blowing her hair behind her, skydiving upwards towards the wall of a skyscraper. She lands (three-point lands, obvs), and runs up the wall, only to "fall" off the edge of the building and go tumbling towards the horizon.
It's discombobulating at first—the "grav-boot" concept is nothing new to most people who play video games, but the idea of falling sideways off the lip of a skyscraper is. I was impressed with how quickly I got my head around the concept, and how much joy I found in simply getting around Gravity Rush's city of Heckesville. (It doesn't hurt that the game is gorgeously drawn, wonderfully animated, and features a lush and beautiful musical score. Despite a few flaws, mostly to do with repetitive combat, Gravity Rush is a game that I have yet to tire of playing. Evan agreed in our official review.)
It's crucial, however, that Kat isn't actually able to fly. Her gravity-shifting powers can only run for so long before she begins to tumble downwards, waiting for them to recharge so that she can fall back upwards again. If Kat were given the power of flight, the game wouldn't be half as interesting, exhilarating, or fun. It's the falling that makes it magic.
In the underrated Just Cause 2, players are set loose on a massive (and I do mean massive tropical island, tasked with causing as much mayhem as possible. They're given all manner of tools and weaponry, but only two tools that matter—a grappling hook that can latch on to any surface, and a parachute that can be opened and closed an unlimited number of times.
Immediately, what would have otherwise been a game about stealing jets, driving jeeps and shooting dudes becomes a game about flight. Or more specifically, a game about falling, with style. The number of techniques combining the pull of the grappling hook with the resistance of the parachute are nearly endless—there is no end to the joy of flinging protagonist Rico Rodriguez about like a little G.I. Joe character attached to a rubberband. And if and when you get bored of that, you can always hop on the back of an airliner, fly to the top of the skybox, and jump.
The gunplay in Just Cause 2 may be questionable, the A.I. idiotic, and the missions may be repetitive. But the sensation of falling—seen in this video at around the 2:00 mark—never gets old.
Valve's Portal games are among slickest falling games ever created. They're admirable not just for their tight design and sense of humor, but because they have some of the most focused falling in video gaming. When you fall in Portal, you fall with a Purpose.
Similar to Gravity Rush, Portal requires players to re-think their trajectories in order to progress beyond otherwise unpassable obstacles. But where Gravity Rush is mostly about action and high-flying acrobatics, Portal is about measured movement and problem-solving.
Back when I reviewed Portal 2, I talked about the game largely in terms of dominoes. A puzzle in the game is a lined-up row of dominoes, with you as the first domino in the bunch. Portal regularly executed a slick combined thrill of first realizing the solution to a puzzle, then throwing yourself through it.
One of the coolest additions in Portal 2 was protagonist Chell's "long fall boots," which let her fall from any height and land unscathed. Chell could fall any distance and, with a simple couple of blasts from her portal gun, wind up back where she started. I quickly learned to take it on faith that Valve wouldn't lead me into a situation from which I couldn't recover. I was free to fall as I pleased.
So many other great games explore our constant dance with gravity—Trials HD can at times feel like juggling, the aptly-named Gravity Hook requires constant slingshotting to move upwards, ever farther from the ground, and death. Max Payne 3 is at its best when its protagonist defies gravity, leaping down a stairwell while blasting away at his foes below, and the best platformers, from Mario to Journey, aren't as much about the jump itself as they are about the trajectory that follows.
"This is falling with style."
That now-famous quote at the start, of course, is from Toy Story. At the beginning of the film, Woody had dismissed his new rival Buzz's first flight as not flight at all. "That wasn't flying' Woody sputters. "That was… falling, with style." And yet later in the film, when Buzz saves Woody, this same line is delivered with a wink—for one moment, Woody and Buzz actually are flying. And while the rules of reality won't stay changed (Buzz can't fly in Toy Story 2, for example), for this one moment they transcend gravity and soar to safety.
We've all dreamt of flying; that moment in the dream when we think, "This is impossible, and yet here I am." But it will always be the fall that wakes us up, crashing back to consciousness with adrenaline in our gut and a gasp on our lips. It's the falling that brings us back to earth.
There's already at least one Portal cartoon in production. That one, however, looks like something Dreamworks would come up with. If you'd rather a Portal cartoon look more like something Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi would dream up, though, you might want to take a look at these.
These pieces are the work of artist Sandra Rivas, whose style is heavily influenced by John K.. What's cool is that she's turned all the cores and computers into people, and in doing so, has absolutely nailed them. Especially Wheatley.
Developers Sixense have announced that a bunch of new Portal content is coming to the PlayStation 3. It's called Portal 2 In Motion, and is DLC for the existing game that takes full advantage of Sony's PlayStation Move peripheral.
Crafted as DLC for the core game, P2IM was developed by Sixense, and brings 20 new levels to the game, along with new challenges and gear. Sixense will also be bringing Move support to the core Portal 2 game on PS3.
UPDATE - Looks like much, if not all of this content is the same PC users got hold of as part of Razer's exclusive Hydra DLC.